North Carolina and twenty-one other states block or legally prevent local communities–towns, cities, and counties–from setting up their own internet service. The result–according to BroadbandNow, a website that allows consumers to find and compare internet service providers (ISPs) in their area–is often inadequate, costly, and low-speed internet service, particularly in rural and less densely populated areas. There are signs, however, that this may be changing. Since 2019, Arkansas, California, and Connecticut have joined the ranks of those states that allow municipality-based ISPs. More recently, as a result of the pandemic, legislators are beginning to see that there is a cost to the digital divide in their districts: families struggle to support their children’s digital needs for remote instruction, area businesses cannot take advantage of online opportunities, telemedicine fails to reach those most in need. To learn more about these barriers to locally developed and owned ISPs, visit PCmag UK. To read BroadbandNow’s full 2020 Municipal Broadband Report, please visit BroadandNow.
After Maine closed its schools in response to the pandemic and made the move to remote instruction, the state’s Department of Education realized that online learning could not equitably engaged by all students. To address this challenge directly, the Maine DOE partnered with the Governor’s Office, the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, ConnectME, the business community and foundations, to ensure that that every student in the state had internet access. To learn how Maine addressed its digital divide and leveled the playing field for thousands of students, visit WABI5.
In a recent article, CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen and Arizona State University Professor Daniel Rothenberg explore how the pandemic is rapidly becoming a “hinge event,” very much like the Great Depression or 9/11, “reshaping the world, politically, socially and economically and … revealing major structural weaknesses in American society and undermining already fraying trust in the capacity of the US government to respond effectively to core security challenges.” Covid-19 will force us to rethink our concepts of national security and to reassess what is important to our families, our communities, and our nation. Among the changes that Bergen and Rothenberg see on the horizon are increased use of telemedicine; the expansion of remote work; the redefinition of higher education and growth on online instruction; and a profound need for affordable and equitably distributed high-speed broadband. To learn more, visit CNN: Opinion.
In this podcast, Heather “Mo” Williams, Manager of Solutions Engineering at Ruckus Networks, discusses the history and fundamentals of Wi-Fi, as well as our overly optimistic hopes for 5G technology and the FCC’s wireless policies. To hear this podcast, visit the Community Networks Broadband Bits Podcast.
The US House Energy and Commerce Committee has announced plans to adopt legislation that would invest $80 billion over five years to expand high-speed broadband infrastructure nationwide, to ensure internet affordability, and to enhance digital technology adoption. The House Democratic Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet is led by Congressman Frank Pallone Jr (D-NJ), Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC), House Majority Whip and Chairman of the House Democratic Rural Broadband Task Force. To learn more about this important legislation, visit the US House Energy and Commerce Committee website.
Jeff Sural, the Director of the NC Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office, testified before Congress in Februrary on efforts across the state to address digital inclusion and affordability. The hearing on “Empowering and Connecting Communities through Digital Equity and Internet Adoption” explored the barriers to broadband access and internet adoption. To view the hearing, visit this US House Committee on Energy and Commerce Livestream recording.
With the closure of schools across Western North Carolina, families have been forced to adapt in the face of critical gaps in broadband service, in order to ensure that their students can participate in remote learning. A recent Asheville Citizen-Times article by Brian Gordon examines the impact of these obstacles to online learning in WNC and follows the story of the McGoverns, whose three school-age children have to complete their coursework using the hot spot on their mother’s cellphone. To learn more about how the McGoverns and other families like them are confronting the barriers to broadband access, visit the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Shira Ovide, the writer of the New York Times On Tech newsletter talks to Cecilia Kang, a Times technology journalist, about our country’s unaddressed digital divide, particularly as it affects our rural communities. To read “Why Rural America’s Digital Divide Persists,” visit the New York Times.
The NC Rural Center will host a five-part series on key issues facing rural North Carolina. The first conversation will focus on Broadband accessibility, affordability and inclusion; this panel session will take place on Thursday, 7 May, at 11 am. The panelists include: Jody Huestess, Vice President for Marketing and Customer Care, ATMC; Robert Hosford, Executive Director for Rural Development, USDA; and Jeff Sural, Director of the Broadband Infrastructure Office, NC Department of Information Technology. To learn more about this series and to register for the Broadband session, visit the NC Rural Center website.
As we have observed and posted several times on our blog, one of the most common barriers to expanded and improved broadband access is the high cost of putting in the necessary infrastructure, particularly in regions of the country where the population density is low and the terrain is rough. A federal “dig once” policy–which would allow construction workers to install fiber conduits whenever they are working on federally funded highway, road, and sidewalk projects–would substantively lower the cost of infrastructure build out and would, at the same time, remove a significant barrier for smaller internet service provides, thereby increasing competition in the broadband market. A March 2017 article in Ars Technica explores the history and benefits of a federal dig-once policy. To learn more, visit Ars Technica.